It’s an intoxicating mix. As we set the clocks ahead one hour on Sunday, March 14—extending the benefits of glorious daylight that smiles on snowdrops already in bloom and charms daffodils to rise through the warming soil—there’s no denying the gathering energy of renewal that is the perennial gift of the vernal equinox.
At the same time, after more than a year of the immeasurable horror, tragedy, and economic and social disruption of a pandemic affecting every nation on the planet—a plague that served to compound the hellish effects of natural disasters on an unprecedented scale in wildfires and seasonal storms—there are signs that the darkest days may be behind us. Every day, thousands more Americans are being vaccinated and this week the CDC issued an easing of a limited number of social distancing and mask wearing restrictions for small groups of vaccinated adults. Signs of rebirth are everywhere.
It can be difficult to remember, especially after a year spent in the unfamiliar fetters of these strange days, that intoxication can lead to missteps and poor choices. The giddy impulse to rejoice and celebrate newfound freedom can too easily blind a person to the pitfalls and dangerous road conditions that still lie ahead. And, really, who wants to think of those now? But as individuals, families and communities thankfully make the most of the beautiful positive energy that this spring is bringing, it’s more important than ever to remember the difficult lessons of the last year.
The only way to secure a workable way forward to a future that is brighter for everyone is for each of us to continue to pay attention, find ways to work together and help each other, and make responsible choices for the good of others as well as ourselves. These are heady days in still uncertain times. And while it’s important to draw on the spirit of spring as we move ahead, we should never forget the immortal caution that some readers will remember from “NYPD Blue”: Let’s be careful out there.
The Mayor’s Corner: On Covid Front, Caution Is Key
After a warning about the return to our fair village of car thieves (with a particular fondness for Audis), and a reminder to dog owners to responsibly complete the process of canine sanitation by properly disposing of feces capture bags rather than leaving them on the street, in his March 2 email blast Mayor Peter Sartorius offered his usual clear-eyed assessment of CIQ (Covid in Quogue):
“Many Quogue residents have advised me that they have been successfully vaccinated,” the Mayor wrote. “The locations have varied greatly, but many people went through Barth’s Pharmacy in Westhampton Beach. Thank you, Barth’s.” Hizzoner’s gratitude to Barth’s was echoed in praise for pharmacy proprietor Lou Cassara from village residents this week, and in an article in The Southampton Press last week: “Westhampton Beach Pharmacist Leads Charge to Get Locals Vaccinated Against COVID-19.”(Click here to read the article.)
“That’s all good news,” the Mayor continued, sounding a note of caution, “but this is still no time to let our guard down even among the vaccinated—you can still possibly spread the virus even if you do not get sick. We have all read or heard about the variants that are present on Long Island. Also, the cumulative reported case count in Quogue is up to 60 vs. 48 a few weeks ago. If you are still looking to get an appointment for a vaccination, the Suffolk County website contains a variety of links. Try https://suffolkcountyny.gov/vaccine.”
As indicated at the top of this post, At Quaquanantuck concurs completely with the Mayor’s call for maintaining all defenses against Covid-19. Expanding on Hizzoner’s shoutout to Barth’s, it should be noted that Mr. Cassara’s heroic drive to vaccinate more than 1,000 people in one day would not have been possible without the gracious hospitality and coordination provided by the members of the Westhampton Beach Volunteer Fire Department.
A Hero’s Welcome and Birthday Celebration for Lee Fadem
Residents in the vicinity of Ice Pond Estates might have been alarmed by the blaring sirens and steady stream of fire trucks and police vehicles in the area on Sunday, February 28, had not neighbor Steve Fadem alerted them in advance that it was all part of a birthday salute to his father, Leroy “Lee” Fadem, a bona fide World War II hero who just happened to be celebrating his 100th birthday that day.
A lot of attention has rightfully been paid to the senior Mr. Fadem this year, in many cases through the efforts of his son Steve, a second home owner in Quogue for the past 22 years who now lives principally in Chicago during the winter months. It was at Steve’s request that Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois wrote a congratulatory letter to Lee offering thanks for his service, and it was through Senator Durbin’s intercession that President Joe Biden wrote his own letter to Lee. Newsletter writer Robert Hubbell offered a special tribute to Lee in one of his Daily Briefs.
It was Steve who got the mayor of Lee’s hometown of New Rochelle, Noam Bramson, to declare February 28 “Lee Fadem Day” to honor both his heroism and his 100th birthday. But Lee wasn’t in New Rochelle on his special day, having been brought to Quogue to spend his birthday with Steve and his wife and two daughters. And that’s where the people of our village and the surrounding community, the Quogue Village office staff, the volunteer fire departments and police officers showed their true colors in ways that should make all residents both grateful and proud.
It only took one call to get things started. When Steve reached Assistant to the Mayor Stephanie Wagner in the Village Office and told her a little about his dad and asked if Mayor Peter Sartorius might offer some recognition, she immediately “got very excited,” according to Steve. She shared the story with the Mayor, who immediately wrote the requested letter, and with Ordinance Inspector Chris Osborne, who went into instant overdrive and contacted QFD Chief Ben Hubbard in order to have the Quogue Fire Department buy a brick commemorating Lee’s service in the Pacific during World War II that could be made up in time for a ceremony at the village memorial monument on February 28. That led Steve and his family to buy another brick to honor his dad’s centenary birthday.
Then now ex-Fire Chief Osborne reached out to Quogue Village Police Chief Chris Isola and neighboring departments to help him organize a surprise drive-by salute to Lee on his birthday, shortly after the brick ceremony. In the event, some 20 vehicles were involved representing the Quogue Fire Department, Quogue Village Police, East Quogue Fire Department, Westhampton Beach Fire Department, Westhampton Beach Police Department and Southampton Town Police.
Why all the fuss? It wasn’t just about a 100th birthday; it was to honor the very special man who was celebrating it. A quick read of a brief bio that Steve prepared gives an idea of how special he is:
“Leroy (“Lee”) Fadem (pronounced FAY- dem) was born on February 28, 1921 in Brooklyn, NY.
“Of all his accomplishments in life he is most proud of his service to our country during WWII.
“Dad enlisted in the Navy at the outbreak of the war. He was a Plankowner (part of the initial crew) on a Fletcher Class Destroyer, the USS Stevens, DD 479; he served as its Torpedo Officer, Assistant Gunnery Officer and Catapult Officer. As for the latter, the Stevens was outfitted with an experimental airplane catapult to launch scout planes that could get far behind enemy lines and Dad was the only active Catapult Officer on a destroyer in the Pacific during World War II.
“One of my favorite stories he has told is that as part of the training he gave to the crew on the catapult, he once decided to demonstrate its power and sat in a bucket and had the catapult shoot him high into the air and into the sea. For this he earned the moniker “Fearless Fadem” from the awestruck crew!
“One night in 1944, deep in Japanese territory, manning the con (the bridge) as the officer in charge, he heard the dramatic ping of an approaching torpedo and after yelling “General Quarters” to the crew immediately steered the ship to avoid being hit and saved the ship and crew. He tells how the protocol is to turn the ship toward the incoming torpedo to make the ship’s profile a smaller target, and as the Captain arrived on the bridge the two men watched as the torpedo passed by the ship with only feet to spare.
“While on the Stevens he earned five Battle Stars on his Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon, and the Combat Action Ribbon, among his eight decorations.
“He went on to become a Plankowner of LST 871 [in a conversation, Lee quipped that LSTs were nicknamed by Navy sailors Large Slow Targets] and started as its Executive Officer and Navigator, later becoming its Commanding Officer. In that capacity he accepted the surrender of the Japanese garrison of some 900 soldiers at HaHa Jima in December 1945, very possibly the last official surrender of Japanese troops after the end of the War. As part of the surrender Dad accepted the Japanese Commanding Officer’s sword, which he recently donated to the National Museum of the Pacific War.”
In an interview at Steve’s house on March 2, Lee downplayed his heroism, shushing Steve as he tried to tell different stories. But he had many other stories of his own to tell, both from the time of his service from 1942 to 1946, and from a trip he made with Steve back to the Pacific theater of battle where he served, organized for veterans by the National World War II Museum based in New Orleans.
A lot of his present day stories have to do with the kindness he has been shown in Quogue over the years he has been visiting here for a few weeks each summer. Like the way the lifeguards at the Village Beach will help him over the dunes in their special buggy on those few occasions when he has needed some assistance. Or the time Village Police Sergeant Jason McMunn helped him fulfill a lifelong dream of flying at age 99 by letting him take the controls of his plane during a ride that included a series of touch-and-goes at Gabreski Airport (with Jason taking over for the “touches,” Lee noted with a smile).
Although he’s not a full-time or even a full seasonal resident, it’s clear that Lee loves the village that clearly loves him back. Which makes for happiness on both sides. As he concluded with a signature smile and sparkle in his eyes, “Fortunately, I know someone who lives here.”
New Fire Department Officers Instated
A new slate of officers for the Quogue Volunteer Fire Department was instated on January 15. Now serving the department are: Chief Engineer Ben Hubbard (in his second year); 1st Assistant Chief Mike Nelson; 2nd Assistant Chief Dave Schaffauer; 3rd Assistant Chief Paul Insalaco; Captain Company 1 Mike McMahon; Captain Company 2 Todd Bandrowski; Lieutenant Company 1 Tom Mullen; Lieutenant Company 2 Gerry Volz; Company 1 Wardens Chuck Karpovek and Cliff McKennett; Company 2 Wardens Dave Turinski and John Sipala.
At Quaquanantuck congratulates the new officers, and all the members of the QFD and joins all in the village in thanking them all for their service.
Westhampton Garden Club Orchid Sale
Ever on the lookout for projects that will enhance the quality of life and bring a greater appreciation and understanding of the world of flora in Quogue and Westhampton and the greater environs, the Westhampton Garden Club is planning to install a Pollinator Garden at the newly renovated and expanded Quogue Library. And, happily, just in time for Passover (March 27) and Easter (April 4), the WGC has organized an Orchid Sale as a fundraiser for this appealing project.
Available for purchase will be lovely Phalaenopsis Orchid plants, each with two stems of blossoms in a terracotta pot, from what the Garden Club is calling “Long Island’s premiere orchid grower.” Fresh from the greenhouse and loaded with buds and open flowers, the orchids are available in two colors: white (in large 6-inch pots or small 3 1⁄2-inch pots) and the somewhat startling “Surprise Me!” in varying pinks and purple (in 6-inch pots only).
The deadline for ordering is March 15; orchids can be picked up on Saturday, March 20, at the Quogue Firehouse (with some limited deliveries available). To order, click on or go to the Westhampton Garden Club website: www.westhamptongardenclub.org, or call 914-646-2367.
If, like At Quaquanantuck, you are wondering what a “pollinator garden” might be, here’s a quote from an Ecological Landscape Alliance discussion of the subject: “Pollinator Gardens are a recent concept. Reminiscent of the Victory Gardens promoted by the government during World War I and II, the Pollinator Garden effort is intended to help cover food shortages, only this time, for insects. The goal of the effort is to provide sufficient food (nectar and pollen) to reverse the decline of pollinators, bees in particular, and to provide habitat (milkweed) for monarch butterflies.”
Want to know more about what your purchase of orchids will support? Here are two more links to peruse: www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/documents/AttractingPollinatorsV5.pdf and https://extension.psu.edu/planting-pollinator-friendly-gardens.
A Reader Remembers: Nando’s Caesar Salad
As long as we’re on the subject of flora, how about a brief trip down memory lane to the flower of East End restaurants back in the day, Nando’s Miramar, which readers of a certain age will fondly remember as the oasis of fine dining and genial hospitality in the omphalos of Quogue at the address that is now the site of the Quogue Club.
Under the title of “That’s Not a salad. Now That is a salad… (Nando’s Miramar, Quogue, L.I. 1968)” reader Carol Meeds sent this “comment” to At Quaquanantuck last week:
“Recently I went to a new and popular restaurant here in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. It is called “Grow” and features organic and locally grown vegetables. The menu is only two items: salad or bowl. The clientele is young and slender. The view is spectacular. One would think that with only two items on the menu the salad would be something special. Well, it wasn’t and I was reminded of the most spectacular salad I ever experienced.
“We were newly married and visiting the Hamptons. I don’t know why we went to Nando’s Miramar in Quogue, Long Island, New York. It may have been a wedding present, or a late honeymoon treat. I remember looking at the menu and exclaiming to my new husband, “Look at this! There is a salad here for three dollars and fifty cents!” Up until then the most expensive salads we had seen anywhere were 75 cents. We ordered it. What an experience.
“The waiter/chef came out with a table on wheels and everything to make the CAESAR SALAD at our table. The garlic clove was cut and rubbed on the inside of the enormous wooden salad bowl. An anchovy was mushed into the bowl, good olive oil, shredded Romaine lettuce and pepper ground at the table with one of those huge grinders, salt too! Lemon squeezed, parmesan cheese shredded in the coddled egg yolk, too. A quick mix and served on a chilled plate. Was it worth it? It is over 50 years later; it is the salad that other salads can only hope to be as rewarding!”
At Quaquanantuck, being ancient, can still recall, mouth watering, at least two other dishes prepared tableside with dramatic flair in Quogue and at the southern Nando’s outpost in Palm Beach: the delectable Steak Diane and, of course, the heavenly Crêpes Suzette.
Taking a cue from the thoughtful Ms. Meeds, readers are invited at any time to share reminiscences of Quogue in earlier days by sending them to AtQuaq@gmail.com.
Quogue Shop Hosting Children’s Party April 3
While the Quogue Fire Department, citing safety protocols, has cancelled this year’s Easter Egg Hunt (or perhaps more properly “scramble”) traditionally held on the Saturday before Easter, there is some good news for the little ones: The Quogue Shop at 144 Jessup Avenue is extending some pre-Easter hospitality to all children ages 2 to 12 with a “Bunnies and Baskets” party on Saturday, April 3, at 2 p.m.
The fun and festivities will include prizes for all and proprietress Theresa Fontana has alerted At Quaquanantuck that “of course, we will feature our socially distant candy chute.” Of course.
Some of the best sellers at the shop, she added, are Quogue Hoodies, Beach Cruisers and “our newest addition: custom Quogue Stationery.”
Theresa also offered a reminder that the Quogue Shop is open seven days a week from noon to 4; Saturdays until 5.
Quogue Wildlife Refuge Kickin’ It for Spring
First things first: The Quogue Wildlife Refuge was the very happy recipient on March 3 of a $50,000 grant from the Marilyn Lichtman Foundation.
This general support grant is wonderful news not only for the Refuge, but also for all in Quogue and the wider East End community who benefit from the blessing of having this natural and historic jewel in our midst as well as all the enriching and educational programs offered there. The $50,000 will go directly towards the Refuge’s $784,000 annual operating budget.
Meanwhile, as part of the QWR staff’s ongoing quest “to bring peace and enjoyment to guests,” they have recently created a Winter Inspiration Walk in the forest. Visitors can now follow numbered and arrowed posts to enjoy inspirational nature quotes along the way. The first of the 19 quotes will be found at the start of the green trail. Visitors are reminded to please only visit the trails between sunrise and sunset.
Virtual programs coming up at the QWR include a talk on the Spring Equinox & Night Sky next week on Tuesday, March 16, at 7 p.m. Hamptons Observatory Senior Educator William Francis Taylor will explore the way the sun returns to the northern hemisphere and the ceremonies in different cultures held to celebrate the March equinox.
Mr. Taylor, a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador since 2014, will also point out the constellations of the spring sky, from a pair of bright galaxies in the head of the Great Bear to a whole cluster of them in the arms of Virgo. He’ll also provide a sneak preview of an April shower of shooting stars. To register on Zoom, click here, or visit the QWR website at www.quoguewildliferefuge.org and click on the March 16 Spring Equinox program on the Events page calendar.
Moving to the great outdoors, the Refuge will offer an Almost Full Moon Night Hike on Friday, March 26, at 7 p.m. This celebration of the beginning of Spring for adults and families with children over 9 will consist of a guided hike through the forest up to North Pond with opportunities to look and listen for nocturnal creatures and enjoy some night vision activities under the light of the moon.
The cost is $10 for members or $20 for non-members; reservations and payment are required at least 24 hours in advance, or as soon as possible as space is limited. Masks and social distancing are required and flashlights are not permitted during the hike. Visit the QWR website at www.quoguewildliferefuge.org or call the Refuge at 631-653-4771 to register.
For the younger set in grades K through 5, happily there’s still time to sign up for the Spring Wildlife Camp at the Refuge, being offered this year Tuesday through Friday, March 29 through April 2 from 9 a.m. to noon each day.
As always, campers are promised “a great experience of wildlife, education, and fun!” with each day including a hike, a craft, and meeting animals. Children should be dressed for the weather, masks are required, and campers should arrive with their own individual snack and drink each day.
The cost is $60 per session or $220 for all four sessions; registration and payment are required in advance. Parents and guardians are asked to note that the program will be completely outdoors and will be held in light rain. If extreme inclement weather (heavy rain, high winds) cancels the program, refunds will be provided as applicable. For more information and to register, visit the QWR website or call 631-653-4771.
Coming up at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 8—the date for the next installment of At Quaquanantuck—the QWR will offer another virtual program, this time on the subject of “Tracking Coyotes on Long Island.” Check the Events page of the QWR website for details and to register.
While At Quaquanantuck may not have the stature of Good Housekeeping, still this column will make bold to award the highest seal of approval to the tasty partnership between the QWR and nearby Homeslice Pizza. Readers who visit order.homeslicepizza.co and use the code WILD at checkout receive a 10-percent discount on truly delicious fully-cooked, frozen wood-fired pizzas that reheat in just 5-8 minutes at home. Homeslice in turn donates 10 percent of each code WILD sale to support Quogue Wildlife Refuge. Readers can enter their address at checkout for Saturday delivery, or pick up their pies right here in Quogue. The offer is valid through March 31, so make some space in the freezer and load up now. @homeslicepizza.co
Another wonderful intersection of interests in support of the Refuge is coming up on Tuesday, May 11, in “Golfing with the Owls at Sebonack Golf Club,” honoring longtime supporter and champion of the Refuge Quogue Village Mayor Peter Sartorius.
In the invitation to friends and supporters to take part (which appears at the top of the Events drop-down on the QWR homepage) Refuge Executive Director Michael Nelson points out that the charity golf outing will allow golfers to support the Refuge while taking advantage of the very rare opportunity to enjoy the exceptional Sebonack golf course and its “breathtaking, panoramic views of Great Peconic Bay and Cold Spring Pond.” As many avid golfers already know, Sebonack is ranked No. 39 on Golf Digest’s list of America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses of 2019-20, and was host to the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open.
“Golfing with the Owls” will begin at 10:30 a.m. with registration and continental breakfast in the clubhouse, followed by a shotgun start at noon, BBQ lunch at the turn, and a 4:30 p.m. Awards Reception with cocktails and sandwiches. Guests will also have the opportunity to meet and greet some of the non-releasable wildlife cared for at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge.
As Mr. Nelson notes on the invitation: “This event provides crucial funds that will allow the Refuge to carry out its mission of responsible stewardship of the 305 acres of protected preserve, as well as to provide quality care for the resident injured wildlife, and teach year-round environmental education programs. We appreciate your support of the Quogue Wildlife Refuge in this exciting event!”
Complete details on Golfing with the Owls sponsorship opportunities and golfer registration (with discounts for Early Birds) are available on the QWR website. Fore!
As always, readers should be sure to check the Events page of the QWR website (quoguewildliferefuge.org) regularly for all the details on programs coming up between now and the April 8 posting of At Quaquanantuck.
Quogue Market Keeps Gourmet to Go Going
To the delight of take-out enthusiasts, the fine folks at the Quogue Country Market are continuing to expand and switch up their daily take-out menu offerings. Considering the likelihood that they might come up with some specials around Easter time, it would be a good idea for any readers who are not already on the Market’s email list to sign up by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the menu.
If you miss the email or don’t have access to the menu, call the Market at 631-653-4191 and they’ll let you know what’s available.
Quogue Library Builds on the Pillars of Modern Life
Count on the Quogue Library to keep things fresh, with programming devoted to all the pillars of contemporary life: food, fitness, best practices with technology, literature and the creative arts for the adults, and a host of fun and educational activities and programs for the younger generations, right down to the toddlers.
For fitness this month, the current schedule offers a continuation of Pilates on Mondays at 10 a.m. and Sculpting and Cardio Dance for all ages on Tuesdays at 10 a.m., both with instructor Leisa DeCarlo; and Yoga with Jillian for adults and youngsters 8 and up on Fridays at 10 a.m.
On the food front, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Chef Rob Scott will host a March Food Fest on Saturday, March 13, at 3 p.m. on Facebook Live. Chef Scott will be sharing his secrets for preparing: Irish Soda Bread Muffins, Slow -Cooked Corned Beef and Cabbage, Peppermint Milkshakes, and Mint Chocolate Brownies.
The Sunday, March 14, virtual meeting of the library’s Adult Book Club at noon will feature a discussion of “Transcendent Kingdom” by Yaa Gyas. The book is described as “a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief—a novel about faith, science, religion, love. Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi’s phenomenal debut novel, “Homecoming.”
The focus shifts back to food again on Monday, March 15, at 7 p.m. when the library offers a virtual program on “Plant Yourself: Understanding Plant-Based Nutrition.” The aim of the program is to demystify whole foods, plant-based diets and teach participants how to make a positive impact on their health.
“Plant Yourself” will also dispel the common misperception that a plant-based diet consists only of leafy greens and raw vegetables while helping participants learn about eating tasty and satisfying foods in a way that people have thrived on for thousands of years. Some of the foods under discussion will include ingredients commonly used to make familiar dishes such as pizza, mashed potatoes, lasagna, and burritos.
Everything you want to know about modern tech and personal computing will become clear in “Technology Devices Explained with Russ” on Saturday, March 20 at 10 a.m. With so many tech choices available, how can people tell whether they need a laptop computer, a desktop, or just a tablet or a smartphone? And no matter what device is chosen, what’s the best way to keep it safe and protected?
As ever, the library’s tech guru stands ready to answer all of these questions, and more in this one-hour plus Q&A program.
On April 9 at 7 p.m., the library will offer a Virtual Painting Class led by artist Marie Camenares. Participants will create a bird scene on an 8- by 12-inch canvas. All supplies will be provided to those who register in a kit to be picked up at the Quogue Library the week of April 1.
For more information and registration instructions for any of these programs and a host of offerings for children, visit the Quogue Library website at quoguelibrary.org and click on the program flier on the home page. Remember that new programs are added regularly, so check the website often to make sure you don’t miss out.
Authors Continue to Write America
The new Write America weekly program dreamed up by writer, teacher and Quogue resident Roger Rosenblatt is consistently offering engaging readings and insightful conversations between talented writers on Monday evenings at 7 p.m. on the Crowdcast channel hosted by the Huntington independent bookstore Book Revue.
At a time when spirit-sustaining live readings are not possible, At Quaquanantuck has enjoyed all of these very different virtual programs, and salutes and gives thanks to the writers and the series creator.
Coming up in the “weekly readings and conversation about how books and art might bridge the deep divisions in our nation”are: Linda Pastan, Paul Harding and Juan Felipe Herrera on March 15; George Howe Colt, Anne Fadiman and Carl Phillips on March 22; Kirsten Valdez Quade and Nick Flynn on March 29; and Kurt Andersen and Amy Hempel on April 5.
“Write America is an organization of writers concerned about the divisions in our country that have evidenced themselves and deepened over the past few years,” Mr. Rosenblatt wrote in describing the mission of the series. “In this project, then, we have come together to read our work in the interests of life’s nobler values … The nation is injured. We hope to contribute to its healing.”
As noted, Write America runs weekly, every Monday at 7 p.m. EST on Book Revue’s Crowdcast channel. All events are free; registration is required at bookrevue.com/write-america-series. A selection of signed titles will be available for purchase with each Write America episode; Book Revue ships worldwide. For more information, click here or visit bookrevue.com/write-america-series.
Whaling Tales of Marital Adventures on the High Seas
At Quaquanantuck was beyond gratified to receive three responses to a request in the February column for fictional scenes depicting Capt. Henry Gardiner and his wife Polly aboard a whaling ship in 1827. Then there was even greater joy when a direct descendant of the real life Capt. Henry submitted some non-fiction material detailing the couple’s relationship dressed up for the stage, as you shall see.
The first response, and the only one to honor the word limit (but who’s counting?), was a tasty metaphor from At Quaquanantuck reader and frequent Quogue visitor Frank Campion:
SCENE: DUSK ON THE OCEAN. THE CAPTAIN’S CHAMBER ON THE WHALING SHIP PANDEMIC. CAPTAIN HENRY GARDINER ENTERS. HIS WIFE, POLLY, LOOKS UP FROM HER SCRIMSHAW.
POLLY: Henry … I’m going out of my mind … I haven’t been out in weeks …
HENRY: We talked about this …
POLLY: I miss my friends … I miss being with people … I miss going out to dinner …
HENRY: There isn’t much I can do …
POLLY: And every day it’s the same … Another wreaking carcass on deck … More blubber … More oil … I can’t smell anything but that … I weary of the stench …
HENRY: Have you been wearing your mask?
POLLY: I can’t breath with that thing on …
HENRY: Well at least we haven’t been eternally stove and sunk …
POLLY: Day after day … The relentless motion of the ocean … The same awful grub … The nasty grog … That gnarly crew …
HENRY: Well, have you checked the Hulu? The Netflix? What about the Zoom? How about that Amazon Prime? Surely there must be something …
POLLY: The damn satellite is down again … No Ebay … No Zoom … No Facebook …
HENRY: Well, dinner’s almost ready at least … You’ll feel better after you’ve eaten …
POLLY: What’s on the menu?
HENRY: Well, we have a choice … Blubber burgers, blubber stew, blubber cakes, blubber blinis, blubber salad, blubber steaks, stir-fried blubber, blubber with bacon, baked blubber … blubber omelets …
POLLY: Oh, my God …
The second response came from Quogue writer, director, musician and man about town Roger Moley:
CHYRON: Winter 1826.
A ship, buffeted by gale-force winds, navigates the whitecapped waters off Cape Horn. Manning the helm stands CAPTAIN HENRY GARDINER, eyeing the dark horizon with grave concern. A SEAMAN is precariously perched in the crow’s nest, searching for signs of whales.
CAPTAIN GARDINER: [to himself] ’Tis weather fit for neither man nor beast! Would we were free of this turbulent hornets’ nest. [Louder, up to the SEAMAN] Keep on the lookout for spouts, man!
A HATCH opens and his wife, POLLY GARDINER, stumbles on deck, grasping at railings for support. Her floral petticoats are frayed and coated with oil, and her hair, so beautifully coiffed at the start of the voyage, hangs raggedly down her shoulders and back. With considerable effort she makes her way up the narrow steps to join her husband at the helm.
CAPTAIN GARDINER: Polly! Get thee below deck this instant!
POLLY: I cannot, Henry! Me stomach’s in knots and me breakfast’s in me throat! The lurching and leaning has made me ill, most grievous! I fear I need to heave.
CAPTAIN GARDINER: Then heave and be done with it, woman! Ye can’t be up here!
POLLY: Oh husband, dear husband – what are we doing in this God-forsaken place? I long for Long Island … the serenity of Quogue! A short voyage to Block Island – was that not enough for ye? This be madness! And for what? A few barrels of oil?
CAPTAIN GARDINER: The spoils we’ll reap from the sea will one day fill all of Quogue’s lamps – and buy us a handsome home on Quogue Street that generations of Gardiners will be proud of! Now go!
POLLY: Hear me out, Henry! This quest of yours is doomed. You did well enough as a Shinnecock fisherman, blues and fluke galore! We should have turned for home when we reached the shores of Santa Catarina. A whaling voyage is no place for a gentlewoman.
CAPTAIN GARDINER: (eyes glazing over, envisioning a distant prize) We’ll return to Quogue, my love … once I’ve harpooned the beast!!
POLLY: (exasperated) Leave Moby-Dick to the Pequod, and to younger and hardier whalers! And don’t forget how close you came to meeting the Lord when last you set out on that whaleboat.
CAPTAIN GARDINER: Nonsense! I spent but a moment in the drink, and was soon back aboard! I was ne’er in real danger; the whale only knocked the wind out of me.
POLLY: I was sure I’d be widowed, and the scurvy savages that serve as crew would have their lascivious ways with me! I entreat you, dear husband, turn this ship around! Return us to our beloved Quogue! There are no adventures out here I wish to be part of! (wringing her hands) If only I’d married the blacksmith!!!
[Overcome by nausea, POLLY retches violently, throwing up on her husband’s boots. Aloft, the SEAMAN cups his hands excitedly]
SEAMAN: Thar she blows!!!
The third response was submitted by a shy writer who requested to remain anonymous:
Polly and Henry Gardiner at Sea:
Dinner time. She kept her focus on the pleasant sounds and sensations of the rocking ship: the helmsman and first mate laughing and talking beyond the closed cabin door; the ocean sloshing along the waterline. A timid knock and the cook entered and set down pewter plates.
Henry smiled at her across the table—the swinging lantern cast a rhythmic light on his face. She smiled, picked up the cup with her measure of grog, and took the first sip.
The grinding inside her skull began. Oh God, oh God, oh God—it began with his first mouthful. She hated the way he chewed; hated the sound of his chewing. His curled lips circled the outstretched tongue reaching under the laden fork. He cocked his head sideways as he shoveled in another bite. Some invariably did not cross the threshold of his moustache. How could she not have noticed this when they were ashore at home in Quogue? She controlled the urge to down her whole cup.
The mouth was never empty; the eyes never lifted. When the plate was clean he leaned back with a grunt and used his fingers to wring the gravy from his moustache. The NAPKIN, you fool; she raged within. He caught her eye, locked on the food in his teeth—never fear: here came the tongue and finger to dig out each bit and deliver it to join the rest. She took another sip and smiled.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, my beautiful, sweet and so lovely wife. I am forever grateful to you for accompanying me on this voyage—you cannot know the solace I derive from your company. Happy Valentine’s day; you are my angel.”
He lurched around the table, catching his belly on the corner. He looked at her, embarrassed, then bent down to kiss her on the mouth. She maintained an uplifted face, certain that she could differentiate the stink of dinner’s boiled cod from the ever-present stench of whale oil.
“And happy Valentine’s Day to you, Henry.” Her thin smile faded as he walked out on deck. That night, like every other night, she dreamed of her children tucked up in bed back home in Quogue.
So, three different takes on what it might have been like for Polly to accompany her husband on a whaling voyage. And now, the real story of the couple’s truly loving relationship, shared in actual letters from Captain Henry to his wife by none other than Captain Henry’s great great granddaughter and Quogue Historical Society board member Pi (Margaret Halsey) Gardiner:
THE FIVE LETTERS
Cast: Polly Hallock Gardiner; Capt. Henry Gardiner
Set (channeling “Our Town”)
No curtain. No scenery. The audience, arriving, sees an empty stage in half-light.
Polly (center stage): For those of you still enduring the sufferings of temporal concerns, the year is 1829. Surely, it should be no surprise that I chose to accompany my devoted husband, Henry, on this voyage. His last expedition to the South Seas kept us apart for three long and joyless years.
My beloved was steadfast in writing to me at every opportunity – when he chanced upon a home-bound ship at sea, or in a port along the way. I kept and cherished these five letters, which told of his devotion and abiding love for me, as well as ship-board news, naturally – a storm he named a “masterpiece” – and off Cape Horn the ship’s cook died! Through the blessings of Divine providence, the cook on our voyage remained in good condition. But I hear my Henry now. Let him speak of his eternal love for me.
Henry (walks on stage, Polly moves to the back, stands to the side):
June 1, 1821, “Off Sandy Hook.”
My Dear Wife, Little did I expect this morning when I left
that it was my last parting with you
but in the midst of a squall we got under way & the Pilot said go to sea
I therefore with a heavy heart said so be it
May God almighty prosper us
& send me as soon as possible to the arms of my love
Polly I feel now what I never felt before
my heart bleeds to think we must so long be departed
and I shall write every possible chance
Excuse my bad writing & blots
it is tears which is the Cause.
July 21, 1821, “Off the Island of Terceira Port of Angra”
God knows I never knew what it was before
to have a wife
you are scarce ever out of my mind when I am awake
& when I lie down it is nothing but Polly, Polly runs through my brain
I am sometimes led to think my attachment is too great toward you to be durable
but God forbid it seems to grow more & more strong
it has all my thoughts & heart
May the all wise providence grant me a speedy voyage
& short return to the arms of my love
Had I felt before what I now feel
I think I should hardly have undertaken so long a voyage
but I shall try to pluck up courage
& live in hopes I shall if my life is preserved
never again so long have to leave you
February 6, 1822, “Port of Callas, 10 Miles from the City of Lima”
Polly I never had any idea before this voyage of the effect
& attachment a man could have for a wife he loves
Never do I lay down nor rise but you are constantly before me
& it appears to grow more & more so
you are always uppermost in my mind
I seem to forget there is any body else I have any regard for
Oh good god how I long to see you
The captains here that have wives as well as myself laugh at me
& say I am a fool
they stay on shore night after night with other women
but I cannot do it
I shall never be willing to leave you again
November 19, 1822, “Woahoo one of the Sandwich Islands”
My Dear Wife I am in hopes
that I shall be amply paid for the long absence from her I love
by the comfort & satisfaction I shall receive
when we shall once more meet
I am in hopes never to part more this side of Eternity
God only knows the tedious months I spend
I never lay me down nor rise but my wife is the first thing that occupies my thoughts
perhaps you don’t realize it but it is so
September 25, 1823, “James’s Island one of the Gallapagos”
My Dear the probability is you will receive this in 4 months
& I shall at the farthest be home in six
so that I shall soon follow
I now hope we shall soon after this be enabled to meet
& see one another face to face
& oh God it appears to me the sensation will be in the superlative degree
(Polly walks from the back of the stage, stands next to Henry, takes his arm)
Polly: You mortals have the five letters. Our love has been preserved. It is deathless.
Voice from off stage: Polly died in 1841, ten years after their return home to Quogue. She was just 44. We can only imagine the depth of Henry’s loss.
Postscript: When the couple went to sea together, theirs was an ill-fated voyage. It seems the ship owner’s insurance company disputed the claim, all the way to the Supreme Court. From the case:
“It appeared in evidence that the vessel sailed on 29 December, 1827, and on her outward passage struck upon a rock at the Cape de Verd Islands, and knocked off a portion of her false keel, but proceeded on her voyage, and continued cruising, and encountered some heavy weather, until she was finally compelled to return to the Sandwich Islands, where she arrived in December, 1829, in a very leaky condition, and upon an examination by competent surveyors, she was found to be so entirely perforated by worms in her keel, stem, and stern post, and some of her planks, as to be wholly unnavigable, and being incapable of repair at that place, she was condemned and sold.”
“Presumably,” Pi concluded her tale, “Henry and Polly caught a ride on an Uber ship heading home.”
Many thanks for all the submissions, which suggest that this is an exercise that bears repeating in the future. Stay tuned.
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